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election 2012

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Did you know that there was a major American election on Tuesday? Great. Let us all never speak of it again. At least for the next 3.5 years.

But before we send the parts of our brains that care about politics off to recuperate at a nice imaginary spa, take a quick look at a page of election maps put together by University of Michigan physics professor Mark Newman. He studies complex systems, including the networks of human relationships and decision-making that go into election results. His page of maps shows several different ways to visualize the same 2012 presidential election data — methods which provide different pieces of context that you don't normally see in the simple state-by-state map.

The basic map — the one you see on TV and in the newspaper — doesn't really tell you the whole story. It gives you no idea of population density (a factor that obviously matters a lot in tallying the popular vote), and it only shows the winning party in each state. In reality, the vote is seldom all-Democrat or all-Republican. There's a gradient, no matter where you live.

The map above takes both those factors into account — distorting the country to make the more populous parts larger, and showing split turnouts in shades of purple.

See all Mark Newman's maps at his website

And here's his FAQ

Thanks, Rick Musser!

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After months of nearly non-stop campaigning, President Obama and his team have spent the last two weeks crisscrossing the country to make their final appeals to voters. Veteran political photographer Brooks Kraft has been there to document the campaign’s final days.

This was the eighth presidential campaign that Kraft has photographed, and his sixth for TIME. Over the years, he has honed his approach to shooting some of the most photographed men and women in the United States. Kraft rarely takes his pictures from the press platforms, preferring to move around, searching out unique angles and small details.

“I attempt to work around all the messaging and clutter surrounding the candidate, to take photographs that reflect the character of the campaign,” he told TIME.

These photographs, many shot in so-called ‘battleground’ states, capture the energy and exhaustion of a campaign winding down. Kraft captures both the quiet details—from Secret Service agents on a distant roof to a close-up of a pink breast cancer awareness bracelet on the President’s wrist — and the dramatic moments — ecstatic crowds pressing toward the stage and the President silhouetted against spotlights as he speaks.

Shooting politics for so many years has allowed Kraft to make iconic pictures that transcend the obvious. “Shooting campaigns requires patience and persistence,” he said. “It can take many days of long travel to find images that can last beyond the daily news cycle.”

Brooks Kraft is a Washington D.C.-based photographer.

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On Tuesday, Mitt Romney will conclude a nearly six-year campaign journey for the White House — and his supporters, as Christopher Morris’ latest photo essay reveals, could not be more earnest or more ready. The former Massachusetts Governor launched his first presidential bid in February 2007, and his second in June, 2011 — now the polls are tight and battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Florida hang in the balance. Even though Hurricane Sandy disrupted the campaign flow in its final days, Republicans continue to hope that Romney’s earlier momentum and economic vision will win him the 270 electoral votes needed to take the oath of office in January.

Photojournalist Christopher Morris spent the last week of the campaign photographing Romney on the trail for TIME. He first photographed the Republican nominee back in the New Hampshire primary and has witnessed his journey to the upcoming finale. Last week he crisscrossed the country with the campaign, from Canton and Kettering, Ohio, to Tampa and Land O’Lakes, Fla.

Morris trains his lens on the voters rallying with great expectations to Romney’s side. Their anticipation and determination can almost be physically felt. Many politicos have summed this election up as two men and two parties with very different visions for America’s future, and Morris’ images capture just how deep this divide plunges. “I was a bit taken back by the strong division in the country, with a palpable disdain and hatred for President Obama by the crowds at the Romney events,” says Morris, who covered the George W. Bush’s two terms in the White House. “Having covered Gore, Kerry, Bush, and McCain, I’ve never quite seen it like this.”

Morris produced My America, a look at Republican nationalism in the country during George W. Bush’s terms. Later this month, Steidl will release Morris’ new book Americans, which further examines a nation in divide.

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and is represented by VII

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American citizens—and those applying for the title—learn early that they have two primary civic responsibilities: voting and jury duty. As voting booths are installed in our common areas across the nation—in schools, gyms, firehouses, grocery stores and municipal buildings—we realize the true weight of our duties as citizens.

Michael Mergen, an assistant professor of photography at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., became particularly interested in voters—and voting locations—while working as a photojournalist during the 2004 presidential election. When he walked into a barbershop-turned-polling center in west Philadelphia, Mergen thought to himself, ‘This has to be preserved.’

In the years since, Mergen has photographed countless voting booths, jury rooms and naturalization facilities in his quest to document what he considers essential parts of being an American. After combing through thousands of polling sites on Excel spreadsheets, the photographer then chose stations located in private homes or unusual businesses; his journeys have taken him to pizza parlors, living rooms, garages, funeral homes and other eccentric spots scattered across Philadelphia. His eight years of work have yielded three revealing yet non-partisan series aptly titled, Vote, Deliberate and Naturalization, which collectively seek to underscore the importance of citizen-driven governance.

“There are few instances in our lives where as an American you can say, ‘I was a citizen today,’” Mergen says. “We are citizens everyday going about our business, but it’s rare when that becomes an actual tangible event. It’s kind of amazing that casting a vote at Bud’s Tire in Murfreesboro, Tenn. actually [contributes to] President Obama or Governor Romney winning.”

Michael Mergen is a Virginia-based photographer. 

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For years, TIME has created some of the most memorable campaign photography, from veteran political photographer Diana Walker’s coverage of five administrations to Christopher Morris’s eight years with President G.W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2008, the tradition continued with Callie Shell’s intimate documentation of Barack Obama’s campaign and eventual presidency.

This season, we looked for ways to continue the legacy of TIME’s political coverage during the 2012 elections — to jump start the traditional approaches to covering campaigns that are moving further and faster from the familiar political cycles of the past decade. We looked to commission photographers with fresh perspectives who could re-envision the spectrum of American politics.

The candidates kicked off their campaigns in Iowa, so we sent Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjork, known for his work photographing the ironic and often-absurd landscapes of suburbia, to document the caucuses. His first time covering American politics, Tunbjork photographed the strangeness of these early events in the frozen Iowa landscape.

We continued by commissioning work by Ricardo Cases, Lauren Fleishman, Justin Maxon, Brendan Hoffman, Lauren Lancaster and Peter van Agtmael — selecting each of them for their different visions as photographers. And each returned with photographs that reflected a diverse visual vocabulary looking beyond the political staging.

We also encouraged veteran political photographers like Christopher Morris, Brooks Kraft, Callie Shell, Andrew Cutraro and Danny Wilcox Frazier to experiment with their coverage. While on assignment, all noted how different the political landscape felt visually since the last election. After Obama’s first 100 days in office, the White House dramatically cut down on photographers’ access to the President, instead releasing images by Pete Souza on their own Flickr page.

The Romney campaign also carefully controlled photographers’ access this election, allowing very little intimacy with the candidate until the final weeks of the campaign, and then only rotating the traveling pool behind the scenes.

In the same way an undecided voter tries to see behind the political facade to judge the true character of the candidate they’ll vote for, our photographers too worked relentlessly to break down the constructed photo-ops and reveal to our readers a sliver of their personality.

The media dissected the Republican candidates one by one before a frontrunner finally emerged. As Mitt Romney became the GOP  frontrunner, we turned to photographers who could capture the candidate’s personal side. Lauren Fleishman documented him (along with running-mate Paul Ryan) for weeks on end, through ten different states. Fleishman’s photographs reflect the nuances of the conservative values shared by he and his wife, Ann.

As Obama started to step up his campaigning, we assigned Callie Shell to follow the President. Documenting his travels the week before the DNC, Shell showed readers a side to the President that had felt absent for a long time. A warm photo of Obama leaning against a high-school gymnasium’s wall before a rally made the cover of our magazine at the DNC the following week.

We’ve attempted to present readers with photographs that document a very specific time in our country’s history—a time where we face numerous worries and frustrations about America’s political future. Although this election may reveal how radically divided we are as a nation, the future will be the ultimate judge of how important this time of recovery continues to be. We hope to provide the lasting record.

Paul Moakley is the Deputy Photo Editor at TIME. 

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18 months ago photographer Jim Young began shooting with a Hasselblad x-pan panoramic film camera. He documented the list of Republican challengers lining up for a chance to go up against the President Obama for a place in the White House. With only days to go until the Presidential election, here’s a look back at the campaign on film. Read Jim’s personal account here.

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From the devastation brought by Hurricane Sandy and Eid al-Adha celebrations around the world to the final week of campaigning for the 2012 U.S. presidential election and a suspected smuggler’s jeep perched atop the U.S.-Mexico border fence, TIME presents the best images of the week.

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(Video link) Joss Whedon is familiar with catastrophic urban disaster and the supernatural, so it's about time he endorsed a candidate in this year's presidential race! Watch as he puts his money on Mitt Romney as the best man with the best ideas for leading our country directly into a "nightmare zombie wasteland." (via YouTube)

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